The Phoenix Coyotes are currently a team in turmoil, potentially preparing for their last known season in the Phoenix area. They are a struggling Sun Belt team that has not managed to turn a profit since the team moved from Winnipeg to Arizona in 1996. Despite debuting to and winning in front of a sold out crowd at the America West Arena in Phoenix, playing with talent such as Keith Tkachuk, Mike Gartner, Teppo Numminen, Jeremy Roenick, Rick Tocchet, Nikolai Khabibulin, Shane Doan, and Ilya Bryzgalov and making the playoffs five out of its first six seasons, the Coyotes have struggled to build and maintain a successful organization in Arizona. The core problem seems to be finding financially stable owners with a strong understanding of the game and business of hockey. Arizona craves stability for it’s hockey team and they won’t support a team without it.
The Coyotes have gone through five owners since 1996 and are in need of new ownership now. The NHL purchased the team in October 2009 when its previous owner, Jerry Moyes, filed the team into bankruptcy. The NHL’s ownership of the team is a temporary fix, one that should have been fixed prior to the last season. The NHL is invested in keeping the team in the Phoenix area if possible, but time is running out. The city of Glendale, which houses the current Jobing.com Arena, has paid another $25 million dollars to keep the team in Glendale for the 2011-2012 season. The city of Glendale and the NHL are desperately searching for stable owners that will keep the team in Glendale beyond the upcoming season.
Late last month, word spread that the former CEO of the San Jose Sharks, Gary Jamison, was part of a group of investors interested in buying the Coyotes and that he wanted to keep the team in Glendale. This is good news for the NHL, the city of Glendale, and the Coyotes, except that Jamison is still a partial owner of the San Jose Sharks. He reportedly wants to, and needs to, rid himself of that ownership if he intends to purchase the Coyotes. Jamison’s experience with the San Jose Sharks would be a valuable asset to the Coyotes. Jamison and other investors under the ownership group, Silicon Valley Sports and Entertainment, have owned and managed the San Jose Sharks, a successful Sun Belt team, since 2003. This could be the stable ownership the Coyotes have been looking for. If the Coyotes get the financial stability and business hockey sense of Gary Jamison, the team could make a turn around or at least lay the foundation to bring back the fans who supported the team in the beginning.
Under coach Dave Tippett, the Coyotes have been a successful team on the ice the past two seasons. In 2009-2010, the Coyotes made the playoffs for the first time since 2002. They also made the playoffs again last season. Even with these accomplishments, the fans were underwhelming in their support. According to ESPN’s NHL attendance reports, Phoenix ranked 30th in the league for attendance in 2009-2010 and 29th out of 30 in 2010-2011. Even a winning team won’t draw the crowds if the team is unstable. Phoenix needs to mix the winning atmosphere found under coach Dave Tippett with a strong, financially stable owner that can bring in and keep talent in Phoenix over the long term. Hopefully, Jamison and investors are the missing piece that can change where this team is headed.
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